Thursday, 8 September 2016

Flame Gunner (Arcade)

The quick and easy way to describe Flame Gunner would be to say it's like a mix of Taito's Dead Connection and SEGA's Virtua Cop, with a couple of extra flairs of its own. Like Dead Connection, the bulk of the game has you in single-screen areas, shooting lots of badguys coming from all sides of the screen as quickly as possible with an automatic weapon. The similarity to Virtua Cop is a little harder to explain, and a little more tenuous, but I'll try: before they actually shoot at you, the enemies in Flame Gunner will have blue lines projecting from the ends of their guns, showing where they intend to shoot. After a second or two, they'll settle on a direction, and the line will turn red, giving you a very small amount of time to get out of the way before they pull the trigger. It might just be me, but that seems a lot like the colour-changing target circles in VC (as well as a couple of other SEGA lightgun games).

Unlike Dead Connection, though, Flame gunner doesn't have charmingly tiny sprites and and detailed pixel art backdrops. Instead, it takes the very mid-90s approach of placing polygon model characters on top of mostly-static pre-rendered backgrounds. I'm sure there's been other arcade games that take this approach (and obviously there are a ton of console games from the period that do it), but none come to mind immediately. It's a good look, to be honest, and it means that MAME does a much better job of running than most full 3D games.

By now, you might be wondering what the "extra flairs of its own" I mentioned earlier might be. Well, there's two of them, and they're kind of connected. Each of the three characters has a different starting stage, and after you finish it (and after you finish ever subsequent stage), you get to choose the next stage from  a shortlist of two or three options. The choice of stages isn't just a choice of favoured locations, as each stage has its own mission, from the obvious "kill all the enemies" to things like destroying a minimum amount of objects within a time limit while an endless stream of enemies come in to try and kill you. There's also the odd boss fight here and there, too, though they're a bit boring and disappointing to be honest.

The weird thing about this game is that I've actually lost more credits to (very narrowly) failing to complete missions within the stringent time limit, rather than being killed by enemies. After a few games, though, I started to figure out the easier missions, and can get pretty far into the game on a single credit now. Flame Gunner is a fun game, and definitely worth having a look at. It's just a shame that, as far as I can tell, it's the last game by the developers GAPS, and their only action game. If anyone knows any better, please let me know!

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